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The Da Vinci Code is Broken.

I saw The Da Vin­ci Code sat­ur­day night. This has spoil­er­s. So don't read it if that both­ers you, ok?

I can now post and noone can com­plain about how I had not read the book. Al­though of course, I haven't. But this is about the movie.

First, I want to say that I must cor­rect my pre­vi­ous com­ments, caused by read­ing a syn­op­sis of the book in Dan Brown's site.

I must say (as­sum­ing the movie fol­lows the book) that it does­n't paint Opus Dei as a clan­des­tine sect at all (not even as spe­cial­ly in­ter­est­ed in ob­tain­ing any se­cret). On­ly one spe­cif­ic cou­ple of Opus Dei guys are. Which is fine and dandy for me. Se­cret so­ci­etys can chase each oth­er around the globe. Their prob­lem.

Of course it al­so means the fol­low­ing ( again, if the book is like the movie ):

  • The com­­ments de­fend­ing the book's por­­trait of Opus Dei as a se­cret so­­ci­e­ty as ap­propi­ate fic­­tion are non­sense, be­­cause the book does­n't do that. You were de­fend­ing the book of some­thing that's not in the book.

  • The guy that wrote the syn­op­­sis in Dan Brown's of­­fi­­cial site has not read the book.

Hav­ing said that, on­to more se­ri­ous mat­ter­s...

Ron Howard is in­ca­pable of film­ing a com­pre­hen­si­ble ac­tion scene. Don't trust me? Watch the Smart­car chase.

Tom Han­k's hair is scary. It's a weird bi­lat­er­al com­bover. I used to do that. I don't any­more. I am right about stop­ping. Be­sides, it's way too dis­tract­ing.


Pro­fes­sor Lang­don, I pre­sume?

I en­joyed the movie as a pop­corn flick with pre­ten­tion­s, but most of the plot fol­lows no log­ic.

Sauniére trig­gers an alar­m, in the Lou­vre, and is then shot in the stom­ach. Then he traipses around the mu­se­um, finds a mark­er vis­i­ble on­ly on UV light, does things to three paint­ings, hides a key be­hind a large, heavy paint­ing, takes off his clothes, cre­ates an ana­gram, writes it on the floor along with some num­ber­s, draws a pen­ta­cle on his chest, ar­ranges him­self in a po­si­tion rem­i­nis­cent of the Vit­ru­bian man, and then dies.

He not on­ly does all that in­stead of call­ing an am­bu­lance on his cel­l, but he does all that be­fore mu­se­um se­cu­ri­ty gets there. In the gallery that has the Da Vin­cis.

Not on­ly is it un­like­ly, but it al­so is stupid. Had he died ear­lier, he could, for in­stance, have been found with the key in his hand, and no clue left for the "good guys".

It's amaz­ing there is still any paint­ings in that mu­se­um, with such se­cu­ri­ty.

And don't get me start­ed on the bi­i­i­i­ig se­cret. It turns out the Pri­o­ry of Sion pro­tects a se­cret about Je­sus.

If said se­cret was re­vealed, it would dam­age the catholic church.

Of course... the catholic church al­so knows the na­ture (and de­tail­s) of the se­cret, which means the catholic hi­er­ar­chs ded­i­cate their lifes to a faith they know to be false. Which makes no sense, re­al­ly.

And then it turns out that sev­er­al his­to­ri­ans al­so know the na­ture and de­tails of the se­cret, and have pub­lished books about it (ex­cep­t, of course, they have no ev­i­dence).



There is, how­ev­er, one de­tail on­ly the Pri­o­ry is sup­posed to know: the lo­ca­tion of a corpse that could be used, via DNA anal­y­sis, to show that some per­son is a de­scen­dant of some spe­cif­ic oth­er "his­tor­i­cal fig­ure".

Which is, of course, ab­so­lute non­sense.

Sup­pose I show you a corpse and tell you "this is the corpse of Joan of Ar­c". You car­bon-14 date it, and do the usu­al foren­sic anal­y­sis, and all agrees. It's a wom­an, that died in a fire, at such age in so-and-­so year.

Then I show you a DNA anal­y­sis that shows she is my great-­great-­granny.

Am I the scion of the Or­leans Maid­en?

Hell no! Be­cause to ac­cept that, you would have to ac­cept that the corpse is her­s!

You can on­ly rea­son­ably do that if there is a clear his­tor­i­cal record of the where­abouts of the corpse un­til now, or else it's a rather sim­ple forgery.

For ex­am­ple, nowa­days we used DNA of known de­scen­dents of Colum­bus to de­cide which of his two al­leged bod­ies is the re­al one. About a known his­tor­i­cal fig­ure, world-­fa­mous in his life. We are just not sure of where his corpse is. We have two of those.

Since the "wit­ness­es" of the au­then­tic­i­ty of this corpse are the ones that are bound to gain from the claim­s, it's sus­pect at best.

If you go back a cer­tain num­ber of gen­er­a­tions, al­most ev­ery corpse will be your granny.

I am pret­ty sure that a large per­cent­age of mod­ern eu­ro­peans are re­lat­ed to al­most any ran­dom 2000 year-old corpse.

And, in the spe­cif­ic case of the movie (or the book), even if you as­sume it is the corpse of who they say, so what? That shows she is the de­scen­dant of a cer­tain wom­an, not of a spe­cif­ic man. Get it? You don't prove the big premise. On­ly the lit­tle, mean­ing­less premise, that M.M. (not Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe) had a child. Who gives a damn?

The se­cret the Church is try­ing to keep se­cret, the se­cret the Pri­o­ry is not try­ing to make pub­lic any­way... does­n't mat­ter. It does­n't cause what the church fears, it does­n't cause what the Pri­o­ry hopes, it does noth­ing.

So, re­al­ly... much ado about very lit­tle. If I were the church, I would let them say what­ev­er they wan­t, and noth­ing would hap­pen. Ab­so­lute­ly noth­ing.

Not to men­tion that the apoc­ryphal Leonar­dian de­vice, the cryp­tex... it's ... I have no word­s. If you missed it, the idea is that there is a pa­pyrus in­side it, and a vial of vine­gar. If you try to open it with­out the key, the vine­gar "dis­solves the pa­pyrus".

Do you know what pa­pyrus is? It's made of the stems of a plan­t, and it looks a lot like pa­per.

It's cel­lu­lose. It does­n't dis­solve in vine­gar. It's like say­ing let­tuce dis­solves on vine­gar.

You can make a pa­per that dis­solves on vine­gar, but pa­pyrus is not pa­per.

It may make some sense if you said the ink used dis­solves on vine­gar, but it's not what they said. What they said is stupid.

So, it de­fies rea­son how so many peo­ple can en­joy a book based on a premise in­no­cent of log­ic, about a con­spir­a­cy to pro­tect noth­ing.

Anonymous / 2006-05-22 07:41:

Dude... it's _fiction_. What, Lord of the Rings had so much truth in it, did it?

Donatas G. / 2006-05-22 09:19:

Hey, impressive analysis. I have not watched the movie, just read the book, but you sound so true...

However, when you read the book, you don't think about those things - you just consume the detective story.

Andreas / 2006-05-22 09:59:

Of course the story is nonsense, what have you expected?

But it's a very suspenseful book, probably the most suspenseful one of 2003. Good enough to enjoy the reading.

Roberto Alsina / 2006-05-22 13:24:

Anonymous: I am not looking for truth. I am looking for coherence.

Sure, now someone is going to come and tell me the book is a parallel universe where vinegar works like hydrochloric acid.

Andreas: I expect my misteries to **make sense**. I get really thrown out of the story when it's badly assembled.

John M. / 2006-05-22 13:47:

Roberto, I always enjoy reading your blog entries when they appear on planet kde. This is no exception!

I haven't seen the movie (don't plan to) but did read the book. I'm one of the few people who didn't like it that much, and mainly because it was full of the logical errors, or to be kind - logical fudging, that you picked up on.

I also don't think Mr. Brown writes all that well. Maybe that's one of the reason it is so popular though.

It's a good thing the characers never had access to a laptop to "decode" any of those "complex" anagrams. Or, access to a university/lab to extract the contents of that puzzle without wasting their time opening it. Otherwise, it would have been a very short story. :-)

I might have been spoiled though. I had already read Cryptonomicon that summer, which I feel is a much better story that also involved "codes".

Carewolf / 2006-05-22 14:43:

Looking for coherency in mainstream literature?

I gotta laugh.

Da Vinci or Harry Potter. There is no coherency in mainstream literature, you are lucky if they have a plot or make even the vaguest sense if you close you eyes are scream "LALALALA"

Discworld novels have a more logical and coherent world than any book on bestseller lists.

Roberto Alsina / 2006-05-22 15:06:

Carewolf: Yes.

In Discworld, light is a liquid. So, there are people that collect it from deep in valleys where it gathers.

Discworld takes a basis of bizarre stuff, and tries desperately to shoehorn it into making sense for the whole book (sometimes more than one book...)

So, yes, I really enjoy most Discworld books.

I **know** you can have popular literature that makes sense, because I have read hundreds of books that were extremely popular and make sense.

Just because most of them are over 100 years old it doesn't mean I have to stop looking.

Roy / 2006-05-22 21:49:

Well, you can't judge a book by it's movie I always say. Well, I don't, but I just did. Anyhow - I haven't seen the movie, but I have read the book (and "Angels and Demons", which seems more like the draft for "The DaVinci Code" than anything else - I swear, the two books are as identical as they can be and still be different books), and it's an entertaining and exciting story, nothing more.

One can poke holes in pretty much any fictional story, all one need is the right angle and open eyes. But fiction doesn't have to be coherent, it only needs to be entertaining. A friend of mine always pokes holes in every movie he sees, saying this and that would never have happened in the real world, or this and that is impossible because real world physics/history/politics/whathaveyou constitute that [...this is usually the point where I phase out...]. Suffice to say, I get a lot more enjoyment from movies than he does. Take your example of papyrus not dissolving in vinegar - for those who don't know that, and for those who are able to take it for what it is (a plot-device) rather than pick it apart, the story is probably a lot more enjoyable.

Bottom line is, a story like this isn't made to educate, it's made to entertain. Nothing more, nothing less. And at that, it certainly does succeed, atleast for a great many people.

Roberto Alsina / 2006-05-22 22:03:


Sorry, but that's personal opinion, I do like coherent fiction better.

And in doing that, I am backed by something very dear to me: my own taste.

If people are entertained by incoherence, more power to them, but I feel they do mostly because they know no better, and have seen no better.

The fact that someone goes and says that about papyrus on a book is not just using a plot device, it's using a lame plot device out of laziness.

It's because he didn't bother doing research. I want authors to be *at least* decent craftsmen.

And I won't yield, because that path lies an adult version of Teletubbies. Just a simple sucession of pretty things happening without rhyme or reason.

If the prerequisite to enjoy something is ignorance and avoiding rational inquiry, it's not worth enjoying.

Roberto Alsina / 2006-05-22 22:04:

Anyway, I think I am seing a pattern here:

Don't think, this is entertainment.

That's just sad.

PeterMHoward / 2006-05-22 23:56:

Totally agree: I like my fiction to be coherent...

What's bizarre is that _every_ person I've spoken to that's read the book that knows _anything_ about a particular topic, knows that Brown got that bit wrong... (typical example: one girl assumed all the history and mythological stuff was well researched, but struggled to get through the scenes in Paris because she knew his descriptions of the place were all wrong)

I think it comes down to a guy putting together a cheap thriller (writing i don't really enjoy, but still read occasionally) with a bare minimum of research... Then all of a sudden the book becomes huge and its fans feel they have to justify it, and Brown (or his publishers) turns around and pumps all the "research" he did


Roy / 2006-05-23 00:26:

It has nothing to do with neither ignorance nor avoiding rational inquiry - it has everything to do with imagination and suspension of disbelief, something the human mind has been capable of since the earliest works of fiction saw the light of day, if not earlier. If the lack of these facilities is something you think is sad, then that's fine. But those of us who are able to enjoy both "coherent fiction" and "incoherent fiction" equally for what it is, simply have more we can enjoy. I'd say that's quite the opposite of sad.

Roberto Alsina / 2006-05-23 00:36:

Suspension of disbelief is not something I do on demand. It's something the author needs to earn from me. It's valuable. I may accept to start on suspension mode, but it's a fragile thing, and jarring it will crash it.

Even assuming you start accepting the world of this particular book, what happens doesn't follow from what was said before. That's jarring, and breaks suspension of disbelief.

I know this is going to offend someone, probably it will offend you, Roy, and I apologize for it, but it's something I really believe:

The capability to enjoy everything is the definition of absolute lack of taste.

It may be that your taste leads to enjoying fantasy, or stream of counciousness, or dishwasher manuals. Whatever. But if your taste makes you appreciate **everything** (or even almost everything), there is something very wrong with it.

My peculiar, maybe even unfortunate taste makes me dislike some things. Many, many things, in fact.

Anonymous / 2006-05-23 17:02:

I completly agree with you Roberto. There are (even best-seller) authors that before writing a book they do a little research on the topic spending up to several months.
Even that I can enjoy a non-coherent plot, but what really bothers me is Dan Brown´s actitude, like what he is writting were true. I saw a documental and he was more convinced about the theories than the author he copied

Roy / 2006-05-23 19:05:

"The capability to enjoy everything is the definition of absolute lack of taste."

I suppose that can be true, but since good and bad taste, or even lack thereof, is a highly subjective definition it doesn't really mean anything. I'm certainly not offended as you've so far not categorised me in your definition. People enjoy different things - we always have and we always will. Enjoyment isn't a universal constant, it's a matter of personal preference. Anyone saying a story is "good" or "bad" is simply stating their own personal opinion, nothing more, nothing less. One can argue points about _why_ they think it's good, or _why_ they think it's bad, but it's still only an opinion, and you know what they say about those.

As for this specific story, it has entertained hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of people. Anyone can pretend to elevate themselves to a higher intellectual level and claim all these people simply enjoyed it because they don't know any better, but as far as definitions go, that's what I'd call petty arrogance. And while I'm no fan of Brown in general, he managed to write a very captivating and exciting fairy-tale, something that - like it or not - requires a certain level of skill in storytelling. For that he certainly deserves some credit. Does he deserve all the credit he's received? Maybe not, and one can probably thank/blame the media-created hype for that part.

Roberto Alsina / 2006-05-23 19:27:

Nope, sorry. Subjective is not the same as menaingless. It may mean meaningless to others, but surely not meaningless to the one holding the subjective opinion :-)

So, it is my right to appreciate the book as crap, just like it's everyone else's right to like it.

I find weird all the posts I get about how it's ok for everyone to like it but it's somehow not ok to criticize it.

And no, not all opinions are equal, some opinions *are* better than others.

And anyway:

If I say that papyrus doesn; t dissolve in vinegar, that's **not** an opinion. If I say the secret is meaningless because it's ill-conceived, it's not an opinion, **at all**.

What is an opinion is that the obvious, gross errors in the book's science matter. And yes, everyone is free to dismiss them (and many do), but then again, it is **my** opinion that they do matter, which is the opinion that is most important to me.

And I am, after all, the one writing the blog, so it is obviously more about my opinion than about someone else's.

So, yes, my opinion, on my site, matters more than most others. And that, my friend, is not subjective.

Roy / 2006-05-23 22:33:

That's fine - your blog, your opinion is the better one by default. Fair enough.

I don't see a point in discussing anything at all with such a winning retort at the ready, so I'll simply take my leave, having gotten a couple of confirmations that I was neither expecting nor looking for - thank you for that atleast.

Roberto Alsina / 2006-05-23 23:00:

Well, my opinion is more important to me, at least.

On the other hand, I don't expect anyone would say my opinion is more important to him than his own.

I am just stating the obvious, here.

Vexorian / 2006-05-24 14:58:

Hey you can say that harry potter has much more non-sense. The problem is that the author of the Da Vinci code still claims that it is based on true facts. And the author of Harry Potter never said so

Roberto Alsina / 2010-07-28 20:43:

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